Point At Issue: Media's Reflection Of The Evil In Society

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On Feb. 24, 2017, Get Out hit theater screens in America. The premise of the film is simple. A young black man, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), who is a photographer by trade, reluctantly agrees to meet the parents of his girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). They meet Rose’s father, neurosurgeon Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), mother, hypnotherapist Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener) and brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) at their house in upstate New York. From the moment Chris arrives at the house, he notices strange behavior. Things continue to become stranger in degrees, till the end.

The film met with resounding success. Made on a budget of $4.5 million, the film grossed a little more than $176 million at the box office, with a worldwide estimate of about $255 million. On the critical reception front, it was nominated for a plethora of awards (210 in total) and won 87 of the awards, including the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for its writer and director, Jordan Peele.

After the film’s release, Peele had spoken about how he wanted to make a horror movie, and that the initial topic of the film was about how being an outsider in a group gave people “social fear and anxiety.” However, Peele quickly realized how it could be a “racial movie.” In an interview to American technology news and media network The Verge, Peele said that “the purpose of it (Get Out) became to represent the black experience, but also just [represent] race in the horror-movie genre and in the public conversation, in a way that I felt was taboo.”  

At the time, Peele had also spoken about doing four more of these “social thrillers” over the next decade. With the movie Us releasing in theaters on March 22 later this month, Peele has made good on his promise. Us is about a summer lakehouse vacation that Gabe (Winston Duke) and Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) take with their children, daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and son Pluto (Evan Alex). The vacation turns on its head when a group of strangers who look exactly like them (referred to as ‘The Tethered’) arrive.

According to what Peele stated at a Q&A after the premiere of Us at SXSW, the film seems to have originated from a similar space as Get Out. Peele stated that the movie was about America right now, and said, “We’re in a time where we fear the other, whether it’s the mysterious invader that we think is going to come and kill us and take our jobs, or the faction we don’t live near, who voted a different way than us. We’re all about pointing the finger. And I wanted to suggest that maybe the monster we really need to look at has our face. Maybe the evil, it’s us.” 

Peele speaks about issues that plague America at this point in time. Whether it is immigration, that is a by-product of the larger issue that affects the world right now, or even the racial tensions that have erupted ever since the 2016 elections, the country is in a state of flux. Although there was an elevated sense of change in the last decade, with the first black president to be elected in office, that changed by the time the 2016 elections came by. The same effect can be seen in a country like the UK too, where people voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. That event also stemmed from an anti-immigrant sentiment.

Does this craving for homogeneity and mistrust of the other have larger implications on society? Have we delved into chaos to the point where society itself has become evil?

If we look at some of the facts, we might be able to get an idea of what state society is in currently. At the moment, income inequality is one of the major problems. According to an article by journalist Eric Levitz for New York Magazine, the explanation for the inequality is this: American policymakers have chosen to design an economic system that leaves workers desperate and disempowered, for the sake of directing a higher share of economic growth to bosses and shareholders. This conclusion was drawn on the basis of a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Levitz makes many arguments to further explain the conclusion. He states that American workers continue to earn less than half the median wage, get fired more often with less notice, and the government does less for people out of work than just about anyone else.

In addition to this, the structures of society are changing beyond measure. Newer technologies continue to be a threat to the old ways of living. A study conducted by the University of Oxford showed that almost 47 percent of jobs are susceptible to automation. Add to that the fact that older methods of energy generation are also changing, and a definite shift into cleaner, more renewable sources of energy are happening, people are becoming scared for their futures.

This fear of the future might be at the root of what is causing us to behave in a negative manner. Although there are real concerns for us as a society as far as what lies in our future, it doesn’t make sense for us to behave in a manner that might be detrimental to us in the present. Society might have been on edge and grown fearful, but humanity has exhibited resilience time and again, as is evident from our recovery into a stable society after the world wars. It remains to be seen whether we can find the goodness in ourselves, and others.